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What if we left it to users to develop the mobile app they need? The idea might have seemed unorthodox a few years ago. Today, in a world where companies and user behaviors are becoming increasingly digital, citizen developers could actually become the leading developers of mobile apps… even before developers.

The findings speak for themselves: 6 out of 10 successful mobile app projects report a close collaboration between business users and end users throughout development. For in order to make a successful mobile app, the creator must also be its user.

A New Approach to Creating Software

The citizen developer is precisely this business user who is going to design and develop, on their own, the app they need to solve their business problems. Who is this business user? This individual might work for a big company and fills a recognized business function but desires flexibility, speed, and autonomy in order to tailor their tools to their evolving needs.

He or she could also be the head of a small business, looking to develop their business processes and provide their employees with new tools, without getting themselves into a long, costly development process.

He or she might be a freelancer, architect, trainer, educator, or consultant who wants to develop a mobile app in order to improve their offer or how it is used, or to propose a service.

Lastly, this business user could be a school, a training center, or a region that wants to develop a mobile app quickly while maintaining its independence.

Business Users Gain Independence Within the Company

In a corporate environment, the citizen developer cannot completely throw off the existing IT. Firstly, there are the company’s data protection constraints and the IT system’s integrity constraints. Secondly, there are project work methods that do not give business users full autonomy to develop their mobile apps on their own.

However, the speed and complexity of the digital transformation brings numerous IT departments to their breaking point in terms of resources needed to rapidly meet business expectations. The Cloud also provides new opportunities. The trend has been towards the use of Cloud development platforms that can be integrated on top of the existing platform if needed, without compromising the IT system’s integrity. On the other hand, business users reveal a growing need for the rapid development of mobile apps that are inexpensive and easy to maintain and develop.

The context is thus particularly conducive to the emergence of citizen developers, novices in code but experts in their profession. Of course, the citizen developer is not going to replace the IT department. The role of the IT department is going to center itself around data, app and technology governance, and infrastructure security.

No Need to be an Expert in Code to Develop a Mobile App 

Developing an app is no longer all about code. It is a matter of community, innovation, sharing, and commitment. These citizen developers do not necessarily already possess the technical skills to design or code their app. They will be able to rely on “low-code platforms” that produce and deploy complex mobile apps with minimal development. They will also leverage communities of users who will share their experiences, suggestions, and know-how.

In another post, we will come back to what is, or should be, a low-code platform. Let’s say it straight off: designing your app with such a platform does not mean you are designing a “low-cost” app. Quite to the contrary, this platform enables you to develop complex, rich, and sophisticated apps without being a developer yourself.

We could draw a parallel here between mobile and web. Just a few years ago, you needed to form a team with a designer, developer, a flasher, etc. in order to create a website. Today, there are numerous solutions that simplify website creation and allow you to design and deploy your own site without coding.

Mobile is Going This Way as Well.

Information technology of the ‘90s had an agile, project-oriented development method – the famous RADs. Current IT has Rapid Mobile App Development, an agile platform that simplifies and accelerates the production of complex mobile apps.

Make no mistake: Gartner and Forrester are conceptualizing the citizen developer profile and project that 70% of mobile apps created from now to 2020 will be made by non-IT profiles. Google and Salesforce are starting to integrate low code. IBM already estimates that 80% of companies want to take advantage of the talents of citizen developers so as to make up for the inability of IT services to quickly and effectively respond to the demand for mobile apps.


Also published on Medium.